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NIRAJ SRIVASTAVA | 28 FEBRUARY, 2017

Trump, Israel, and India: "You Too Can Be Critical of Your Government"


NEW DELHI: Speaking at the Writers Guild Awards, held simultaneously in Los Angeles and New York on 19th Feb., the writer, and film director, Oliver Stone had this to say, while accepting the Laurel Award:

“The country [the US] has become more prosperous for many, but in the name of that wealth, we cannot justify our system as a center for the world’s values. But we continue to create such chaos and wars. No need to go through the victims, but we know we’ve intervened in more than 100 countries with invasion, regime change, economic chaos. Or hired war. It’s war of some kind. In the end, it’s become a system leading to the death of this planet and the extinction of us all.

I’ve fought these people who practice war for most of my life. It’s a tiring game. And mostly you’ll get your ass kicked. With all the criticism and insults you’ll receive, and the flattery too, it’s important to remember, if you believe in what you are saying and you can stay the course, you can make a difference.”

Stone reminded younger filmmakers:

“You can be critical of your government and your society.

You don’t have to fit in. It’s fashionable now to take shots at Republicans and Trump and avoid the Obamas and Clintons. But remember this: In the 13 wars we’ve started over the last 30 years and the $14 trillion we’ve spent, and the hundreds of thousands of lives that have perished from this earth, remember that it wasn’t one leader, but a system, both Republican and Democrat. Call it what you will: the military-industrial-money-media-security complex. It’s a system that has been perpetuated under the guise that these are just wars, justifiable in the name of our flag that flies so proudly.”

He finished with these words:

“I urge you to find a way to remain alone with yourself, listen to your silences, not always in a writer’s room. Try to find not what the crowd wants so you can be successful, but try instead to find the true inner meaning of your life here on earth, and never give up on your heart in your struggle for peace, decency, and telling the truth.”

Stone’s acceptance speech deviated somewhat from the current norm, which includes holding Trump responsible for all the ills facing America. Instead of doing so, he held the whole “system,” that has come into existence over the last 30 years, responsible.

That “system,” also called the “Deep State” (DS) by some, did not expect Trump to win the Presidential elections last November. Its candidate was Hillary Clinton, who had promised to intensify the proxy war in Syria, possibly resulting in a direct military confrontation with Russia, including a nuclear exchange.

As Stone indicated, war has become a way of life for the US “Deep State,” which includes the lobbies mentioned by him. The DS does not want improvement of relations with Russia, Iran, Syria and some other countries because that will reduce the possibility of wars with them.

That, in turn, will affect US arms sales and the plan for global domination drawn-up by the “neocons,” who continue to infest the American “system.” They have not yet accepted Trump as President, and are scheming to remove him from office as soon as possible.

The opening move in this game-plan has already been made with the [forced] resignation of Trump’s National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn, who was a strong supporter of good relations with Russia. His misdemeanour—speaking to the Russian ambassador on the phone, and possibly “lying” about it to Vice-President Pence—was not so grave as to result in his resignation. But Trump didn’t stand up to the DS to defend Flynn and buckled under pressure.

In the process, the DS, in particular the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), which are suspected of leaking the transcript of Flynn’s phone call to the media, committed a serious violation of US law, which Trump has asked the FBI to investigate. But that will not be an easy task and might take some time.

In the meantime, US relations with Russia have been undermined, Trump has been weakened, and the DS has tasted blood. The first round in this fight has gone to the DS, whose ultimate objective is the removal of Trump, by whatever means, including impeachment, as soon as possible.

Trump's tenure in the White House, therefore, is likely to be marked by turbulence, unpredictability, and inconsistency.

There are other signs of neocons changing Trump’s policies. For example, he has spoken about setting up “safe zones” in Syria and return of Crimea by Russia to Ukraine. Both these demands are unacceptable to Russia and were not made by Trump earlier.

These demands will only increase the friction between the two countries, which is what the neocons want—an adversary in whose name the US/NATO war machine can continue to work. Otherwise, what would be the justification for the continued existence of NATO?

Trump’s election had raised hopes that a political solution to the crisis in Syria could be found by the US and Russia working together. Those hopes have largely evaporated.

The two rounds of talks held in Astana in the last few weeks have not produced much; “regime change” continues to be the top priority for the anti-Assad groups backed by the West and Gulf. Turkey has its own agenda in Syria that does not coincide with Syrian interests. Erdogan continues to play all sides, though he pretends to work with Russia and Iran to broker a peace settlement in Syria.

For the above reasons, the fourth round of peace talks currently underway in Geneva is unlikely to produce any substantive results. Russian frustration with the West was articulated by Foreign Minister Lavrov, who called for a “post-West” world order at the Munich Security Conference held a few days ago. He also described NATO as a relic of the Cold War, whose expansion in the last two decades had increased tensions in Europe.

So, while a shaky cease-fire holds in Syria, durable peace is unlikely to return to that country anytime soon. The opposition groups will use the cease-fire to regroup and re-arm, as they have done in the past. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Turkish and American troops continue to occupy and operate in Syria illegally. Nobody knows when, or if, they will leave.

And then there is Israel, which has been emboldened by Trump’s policies. Its objective is the disintegration of Syria, so that it may annex the Golan Heights and other Syrian territories.

Trump’s approach to Israel is puzzling because he is not beholden to the Jewish lobby for his election. Clinton was the candidate of that lobby. But Trump is proving to be a bigger Zionist than Clinton. That cannot be good for Syria, Russia, and Iran.

As far as India is concerned, she would do well to pay attention to Oliver Stone’s speech of 19th February. Would it be in India’s interest to get too close to the US under Trump, and the neocons, who will ultimately call the shots? Would India like to be seen as a close partner of the US, and Israel, who have caused untold death and destruction in the Middle East and North Africa, in the last fifteen years?

The US also has over 800 military bases all over the world, which reflect the militarization of US policies over the last several decades. The Deep State and the neocons want to put these bases to use, to achieve global "full spectrum dominance." They have not been built for cosmetic purposes.

It is not being suggested that India should distance itself from the US and Israel. Far from it. There are simply too many linkages and avenues of cooperation between them which are mutually beneficial and not directed against any other country. Both the US and Israel have helped India in times of need and may be requested to do so again.

But India needs to chart the limits of its relationships with these two countries, beyond which her relations with other important countries, such as Russia, might be adversely affected. Of course, these limits will not be static but dynamic, depending on the regional and global situation at the time.

There is also the issue of the extent to which the US can reasonably be expected to come to India's help in case of Chinese or Pakistani adventurism. Here recent US behaviour could provide useful pointers.

Did the US come to anybody's help in the South China Sea when China started flexing its muscles to enforce the nine-dash line, or building artificial islands and militarizing them? No, the US didn't meaningfully help the Philippines or even Japan, with which it has a treaty relationship.

The US' position on the bilateral border dispute between India and China, or that between India and Pakistan [which it has designated a major non-NATO ally], is that it does not take sides. So, if India is threatened by China or Pakistan, the US will not be of much help to her. That needs to be understood clearly by everyone concerned.

As for Israel, it will probably help in respect of the weapon systems it has sold to India, by supplying spare parts, ammunition, etc. That must be part of the contract signed by the two sides. But it is not clear what else it will do to help India.

In fact, expecting more from Israel would be unrealistic. Its hands are likely to be full with more pressing regional issues such as Iran. Beyond a point, it is unlikely to spend its political capital on India.

Coming back to the US. Unfortunately, it has steadily been moving towards the wrong side of history since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Instead of capitalizing on the "peace dividend," and promoting peaceful co-existence, it embarked upon a campaign of global hegemony.

Some landmarks in this enterprise were: The expansion of NATO, which still continues; illegal bombing of the then Yugoslavia (1991); unilateral abrogation of the ABM Treaty (2002); invasion of Iraq (2003); NATO bombing of Libya and murder of Qaddafi (2011); regime change in Ukraine (2014); the proxy war in Syria (2011-present); and the ongoing war in Yemen, in which it is complicit.

By getting too close to the US, India, too, would be seen as moving towards the wrong side of history.

[The writer, a former Ambassador of India, has served in several countries, including Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.]

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